Spot the sponsored content

Can you trust a targeted ad? Learn about online advertising and see if you can work out what’s reliable / not.

You will need

  • Scrap paper
  • Pens or pencil

Talk about targeted advertising

  1. Explain that in this activity, everyone will guess the famous person (or fictional character) their partner’s thinking of, based on a profile made up of their online activity. Afterwards, they’ll work together to create an advert targeted to the profile.
  2. The person leading the activity should ask if anyone knows what targeted advertising is. They should explain that a lot of online adverts are shown to people based on both their online activity and their identity, for example, their gender, age, location or ethnicity. For example, some advertisers could choose to show their adverts to men over the age of 35. Others could choose to show their adverts to people interested in action films or bikes.
  3. The person leading the activity should ask if anyone has seen or noticed targeted adverts before. If they have, what have they seen and where have they seen them? It could be on social media sites, online games, mobile apps, or other web pages. They may have seen adverts for different products, companies, or games.
  4. The person leading the activity should explain that many websites collect personal data and build up a profile of people’s online activity that can be used to target adverts to them.

Build your profiles

  1. Everyone should get into pairs. Each pair should stand next to each other, making sure to stay a safe distance apart. Everyone should get a pen and some scrap paper to make notes.
  2. Each person should choose a character or famous person to play in the game. They shouldn’t tell anyone else who they’re thinking of – they should make sure they keep it a secret from their partner. It’s a good idea to prepare some examples you can give to people if they can’t think of one themselves – you could use famous celebrities like Bear Grylls, or well-known fictional characters from TV shows or films.
  3. When everyone’s thought of a character, the person leading the activity should ask a series of questions.
  4. Everyone should take it in turns to answer in character. They should note down how their partner answers so they can start building a profile of their partner’s character. Keep it quick – you could set a 30 second timer for each question to keep it moving.
  5. After a few questions, everyone should use the notes and information they’ve collected to try to work out who their partner’s character is.
  6. The person leading the activity should continue to ask questions until everyone’s managed to work out their partner’s character. If anyone is struggling, you could let them ask their own questions in their pairs or prompt people to give their partner a clue.
  7. Once everyone’s completed their profiles and worked out who the characters are, they should think about the different bits of information they learned about each other. Was it easy or difficult to figure out who people had chosen?
  8. Everyone should chat about the different questions they were asked. Which bits of information do they think that websites could find out about them while they’re online? How might they find that information?
  9. Everyone should talk about how they feel about companies knowing this information about them. Does knowing things like their location, gender or age give an accurate picture of who they really are? Everyone should take it in turns to share some of their thoughts with the group.

Create your ads

  1. Each pair should choose one of the profiles from the first part of the activity.
  2. Each pair should work together to create some personalised adverts for the person they profiled. There are lots of ways pairs could do this – they could create some images or written text, dramatize some real-life adverts, or create a sales pitch. Remind them that they could target adverts for everyday items or products like clothes, online games, holidays or other businesses or services.
  3. When everyone’s made a few adverts, pairs should take it in turns to present their ads to the rest of the group. They should explain how they built information into the targeted advert.
  4. After people have presented their ad, the rest of the group should try to guess who the character is.
  5. Everyone should finish the session by chatting about the pros and cons of targeted adverts.

Courtesy of Scouts UK

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